High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography has been around for a long time, but it has only been since 2005 with the release of Adobe Photoshop CS2 that it has become practical to create this style of image, that, in the past, was difficult to produce. Since that time, more products have come to the market to make the photographers job easier and the results much better. The latest of these products is Nik Software’s plug-in for Adobe Photoshop – HDR Efex Pro.
In October 2010, authors Jason Odell and Tony Sweet, published an eBook call The Photographer’s Guide To HDR Efex Pro, now Jason Odell has produced a two part, 111 minute training video that is presented in 720p HD format and will run on any computer using QuickTime or Real Player.
Part I, “HDR Efex Pro Workflow and Interface,” will take you through the basic HDR workflow, you will see how to launch HDR Efex Pro though a variety of interfaces, and then take a look at the HDR Efex Pro interface and controls.
The HDR workflow essentially walks you through the process of capturing the images that you will want to use to produce your HDR image. This includes taking bracketed images, creating the TIFF or RAW images, processing the image using HDR Efex Pro, and then saving the image for post processing.
Next you will learn about how to use HDR Efex in several applications such as Adobe Photoshop & Bridge, Photoshop Lightroom, Apple Aperture, and even as a stand-alone application. The author also takes you through the steps for creating your tone mapped image along with explaining the advantages and limitations that correlate to each product.
You then take a tour of the HDR Efex Pro interface and controls. You begin with the overall interface and looking at the various areas of the application. Then you work through all the individual controls one at a time learning what each one does and how best to work with it. You first begin with the global adjustments and then go through the selective adjustments with control points.
Next you will take a look at finishing adjustments for your image. These include vignetting and working with levels and curves – which work much like the ones in Photoshop. The vignette will help draw the viewers’ attention to the center of the image. Finally, you will work with presets. Here you will see the presets that come with HDR Efex Pro as well as creating your own.
In Part II, “Tone-mapping HDR Images,” the focus is on the real world processing of HDR images. You will look at both natural/realistic styles – images that have high dynamic range, but still look like normal photographs, and Artistic styles – these are the images that take the HDR beyond the normal image range and become more works of art than a normal photo. You will also look at working with Black & White images, as well as tone-mapping a single image.
Natural HDR looks at how you can take an image and, after applying a base preset, use selective adjustments to make certain portions look better whether it be making colors pop, reducing saturation, enhancing shadows, or bringing out details in rock.
Then you explore natural interiors. Again this is where you want the image to look like a picture and not something that has been too enhanced. The first image is the interior of a chapel. The author explains both what he wants to do as he shows how he performs the changes. The second is an interior with a lot of window light coming through.
Artistic HDR is all about emphasizing textures and colors. Realism is not important to this type of image rather it is the artistic look that you want. The first exterior image that he works with is a rusty old steam shovel and the second is under a bridge in New York. The interior images include a compressed air compressor and an old sewing machine that is sitting by a window.
Black & White HDR can be done completely in HDR Efex Pro. As with color images, creating black & white images can be created in both a natural and intense style. You will see how to use control points to base changes on the original color image and use the structure controls to enhance contrast. The first image is of a mountain outcropping landscape image to see how to work with natural scenes. The second is an interior aircraft museum where you will see how to make a more intense scene.
The final technique is to see how to use a single-image tone-mapping. Here you will see what the best shots that make this a use technique. Here the author explains what the differences are and what limitations that you will run into when only using a single image.
Mastering HDR Efex Pro follows along the same pathway that The Photographer’s Guide To HDR Efex Pro lays out. In fact it makes for a perfect companion piece to the eBook. The lessons are clear and easy to follow along and will show you the techniques that the book describes. The videos are laid out so you can easily jump to any section and the author does a good job of not just showing you what to do, but explaining why he does the individual tasks.
HDR Efex Pro is a complex product with a lot of features and this video does a great job of breaking it down into understandable bites. If you have HDR Efex Pro and want to make the most of it or if you are thinking about buying HDR Efex Pro, then I can highly recommend Mastering HDR Efex Pro.